Elian Gonzalez, 16, marks 10-year anniversary of U.S. – Cuba custody battle – It’s not often that a 16-year-old Cuban boy makes news in the United States at all much less a second appearance in American media, but Elian Gonzalez has done it through no cause of his own either time. Mr. Gonzalez captured the attention of American citizens 10 years ago when he was picked up in November, 1999 as a five-year-old boy drifting alone in an inner-tube at sea. It was discovered that his mother died in an attempt to bring her son to the United States and seek refuge here from Cuba and the Castro regime. The boy’s father remained loyal to Cuba. Family in Miami sought to keep the boy there to honor his mother’s wishes, but his father wanted him back home with him in Cuba, resulting in a major custody battle between the two countries.
Reuters reports that the teen is now in Camilo Cienfuegos military school in Cuba, training to be an officer of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. Wednesday marked the 10-year anniversary of his return to Cuba from the United States in June, 2000. He was photographed attending an event at a church in Havana with President Raul Castro marking the anniversary of his return to the country. The photo of Mr. Gonzalez as a young adult is a striking reminder of time and the difference in upbringing he likely received there versus what his life would be like if he were raised in the United States. Reuters reports he had recently attended the Union of Young Communist Congress.
When the dispute between the two countries was settled in favor of the return, federal agents went to the home of the Miami relatives and took the boy by force. A photograph was taken of a terrified young boy facing uniformed officers with guns, one aimed at his relative. The photo later won a Pulitzer Prize, but the lasting impact of that event on the boy may never be known.
Mr. Gonzalez reportedly said recently that he does not blame his Miami relatives who were trying to give him what they thought was a better life. He is also grateful to the Americans, however, who agreed with his father that he should return to Cuba.
Comment below: At the time it happened 10 years ago, the Elian Gonzalez story was on the news every night for months. What do you think? Would he have been better off in America with extended family, or in Cuba with his father? Many have said the boy was used as a political pawn between the two countries and continues to be today. Do you think that’s true? Let us know your thoughts in the Comment section!
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Connie Ann Kirk is a published author of 10 books and holds a Ph.D. in English. She is currently working on a novel and a screenplay. See all of Connie’s Arts & Entertainment columns at these pages: National Books on Film Examiner , National Literature Examiner, and National Young Adult Pop Culture Examiner . Feel free any time to also check out her website.
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